Last time I was in Miami, I found myself in South Beach trying to figure out where I wanted to eat. I debated a lot of different options, but struggled to find something. Finally I landed at the Dining Room and was more than pleased with the end result. But, at one point as I was having my mental jousting match, I found myself on the corner of 7th and Collins, staring at Puerto Sagua across the street. I landed there because it came up as the second best restaurant in South Beach and number 9 in Miami. So when I again found myself in South Beach, this time for lunch, I decided to check it out.
Puerto Sagua definitely lives up to the hole-in-the-wall ambiance and stereotype with that unique combination of slightly old school and retro plus slightly unkempt. The waitresses at the front old school diner bar complete with the round stools were hustling. I decided to take a seat there rather than head back into the dining area, though it was a bit more vibrant.
When I walked in, I was looking for something tasty and full of vegetables. Apparently a hole-in-the-wall Cuban joint is not the place to be searching out leafy greens. Paging through the menu (English on the left, Spanish on the right), I was impressed by the number of options, but surprised because it seemed that everything was a large portion of beef, pork or fish, and also a bit pricey. Ultimately I decided on one of the couple salad options and a Cuban sandwich as a smaller, more lunch appropriate combination.
My impression that a Cuban place is not where to go for a salad was further confirmed when the first plate was placed in front of that contained what I guess was a “Lettuce and Tomato” salad. The lettuce was shredded…like the type you find in a large bag that gets thrown on top of tacos as fast food restaurants. The tomatoes were two slices cut in half so it seemed like I got four. And there were a couple cucumbers on top to add texture I guess because it definitely wasn’t color or flavor. The whole thing was watery and flat and the only thing that added any flavor was the bit of vinegar and pepper I put on it.
But there was a chance at redemption with the Cuban sandwich. I mean, if you are a popular Cuban restaurant you have to do a great Cuban sandwich, right? Apparently not. It tasted like another thing right out of the vacuum sealed bags. I had visions of sliced roasted pork with strong flavors competing with the smokiness of a nice ham and balanced by the acidic sharpness of yellow mustard. Instead it was a bunch of blah. Basically two slices of ham, two slices of what I’m guessing was pork that seemed like the deli meat you can buy at any grocery store, topped with a yellow mustardish sauce that had no bite. Even the pickles where flat and tasteless.
The entire meal was a let down for me, and I paid my bill and left quickly without finishing my sandwich (most of it was white bread anyway). I was disappointed at the lack of flavors, and I was disappointed because that was probably the most processed food I’ve eaten in a month. Maybe I ordered the wrong thing, but I can’t see how this place could possibly be a Top 10 restaurant. If you go there, plan to spend $30 or so, and definitely don’t order the Cuban sandwich. I have had many with much more flavor in Seattle, and I’m sure you can do much better in Miami.